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Eszterhas deal nets $2 million

Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has received $ 2 million cash upfront to script an original rock ‘n’ roll musical about Las Vegas showgirls, in what is believed to be one of the highest guaranteed development deals ever struck.

Charles Evans–real estate magnate brother of producer Robert Evans–confirmed yesterday that he agreed to commission Eszterhas to write “Showgirls” based on a verbal pitch by the writer from an idea by indie producer Ben Myron.

Confirming that $ 2 million in cash was deposited into Eszterhas’ bank account on Oct. 30, Evans said, “I’m paying this amount of money because I think I’m going to make a lot of money on the property and I think it will be an enormous commercial success.” Eszterhas’ most recent pic, “Basic Instinct,” has grossed around $ 380 million worldwide to date.

Evans, who executive produced and provided the seed money for Columbia’s 1982 comedy-drama smash “Tootsie” and produced Orion’s 1988 horror pic “Monkey Shines ,” will serve as a producer on “Showgirls.” Myron, formerly head of Roland Joffe’s production company Lightmotive, will executive produce.

Eszterhas said his “Basic Instinct” collaborator Paul Verhoeven is interested in directing “Showgirls” pending his approval of the script, which the writer expects to deliver at the beginning of March.

The two have wanted to reunite on a project since “Basic Instinct” and Eszterhas said the director was intrigued and excited about the idea of a musical. This would be Eszterhas’ first in that genre since his 1983 Paramount musical drama “Flashdance” (cowritten by Tom Hedley).

“Showgirls” marks the second lucrative deal for Eszterhas in the past two weeks, following the sale of his two-page outline for “Jade” to Paramount in a transaction potentially valued at $ 2.4 million if the picture goes. (Daily Variety, Nov. 9).

But unlike that exchange, there is no ceiling on the “Showgirls” deal since there’s no studio involvement at this point.

In addition to Eszterhas receiving the $ 2 million advance, the writer could yield additional millions if a studio buys the property.

Eszterhas’ agent, ICM’s Guy McElwaine, called this “a unique, mind-boggling deal, I’ve never seen anything close to this in my time.” McElwaine also engineered the record $ 3 million sale of “Basic Instinct” to Carolco in June ‘ 90.

Eszterhas is developing a story that will center on the friendship of three showgirls, based Myron’s notion of a musical about dancers in Vegas.

Of the film, Eszterhas said: “It is ultimately about personal moral choices. It is about life, music and dance and about the death of the spirit. It will be raucous, joyous and powerful. It’s about rock ‘n’ roll, the flesh, dollars and dreams. It begins in the world of erotic dancers, lap dancers, table dancers, strippers and sleaze. It moves into the world of big hotel showgirls, billboards and glamor. It examines the sleaze and glamor and asks the audience at the end to make its own moral conclusions.”

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